Troy Polamalu's goal is staying healthy
Thursday, June 10, 2010
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Coach Mike Tomlin generally shrugs off questions about Troy Polamalu missing most of the Steelers' voluntary offseason practices, and there is a good reason why.

Tomlin gave Polamalu his blessing for the strong safety to train on his own in California.

"There's no question that if I didn't have his permission to leave that I would definitely be here," Polamalu said Wednesday.

The five-time Pro Bowler made a rare appearance at practice yesterday when he returned for the final week of offseason drills.

Practicing without a brace on the left knee that he injured twice last season, Polamalu got in almost two hours of work with his teammates after rain chased the Steelers indoors.

Afterwards, he talked about a number of subjects, including the injuries that sabotaged his 2009 season, the leadership role he has assumed and how one of the premier safeties in the NFL is still improving.

"I don't think you stop getting better. There's so much to improve year to year, especially since I hardly played last year," said Polamalu, who will take part in the Steelers' final offseason practice today. "I'm learning so much more about technique and all of these little things that I wish I would have known my first few years of the NFL."

The key for Polamalu putting that knowledge to good use: staying healthy in 2010.

He played in parts of only five games last season, and a sprained medial collateral ligament that Polamalu sustained in the first game set the tone for his season -- and for a secondary that sorely missed the dynamic playmaker.

Polamalu strained the posterior collateral ligament in his left knee in mid-November and didn't play the rest of the season.

He still tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) and said both injuries the first one happened after a teammate fell on his knee following a blocked field goal were simply a result of bad luck.

"What's been kind of tough about my knee injuries is it's all been kind of wrong place, wrong time," Polamalu said. "Any time I've sustained a knee injury the only thing that probably could have stopped it was wearing a straight-leg brace."

Polamalu said he won't wear a knee brace this season simply because it would limit him too much on the field.

A big reason why he has worked out in southern California the past three offseasons, he said, was because he knows his body better than anyone and what it takes to get ready himself for an upcoming season.

"You learn as your body ages how to deal with the injuries, when your body needs to peak, leaving (training) camp, not before camp," said Polamalu, who trains at Sports Lab in southern California with Marv Marinovich. "I think there's a fine line of how much football stuff you can get done at this time and also getting healthy. I didn't play that much last year, and (getting healthy) is my No. 1 focus."

Like Tomlin, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau doesn't have a problem with Polamalu missing the majority of the voluntary offseason practices.

"Any of us would be better to get every possible snap we can get, but in the case of Troy he's a very veteran player who's extremely intelligent," LeBeau said. "I don't think that (his absences) are going to be a huge factor. It's just always good to have him here when he is here."

When Polamalu is in California, the 5-foot-10, 207-pounder said he is doing more than just working out.

Polamalu regularly studies film, something that will not only help him on the field but also when he is in meetings with his fellow defensive backs.

The soft-spoken Polamalu said he stepped out of his "comfort zone" and become more vocal in meetings.

"I'm taking more of a leadership role now," Polamalu said, "and I feel more responsible for wins and losses."